This perfume experiment was the fruit of several stars aligning, to mix metaphors a bit.
I have been gravitating to leather fragrances for a while, particularly “softer” leathers, and drawn to the leathery quality of different natural materials as well. (I’m also currently on a leather trouser kick—for once in my life somewhat in sync with what’s trending in fashion. They are so comfortable and versatile, and they are made of polyurethane, not real leather.)
I wanted to give the blackcurrant-leather note duet a chance after it shone in every mod of one of my previous experiments, Choco Poeticus, before being doomed by the addition of the star ingredient (first coffee flower, then eventually narcissus).
My favorite olfactory artwork from the Ten Encounters exhibit at Olfactory Art Keller in New York, Shahmaran and Camasb by Ömer İpekçi, contains a large dose of calamus, a raw plant material with which I was not familiar at all except for having heard the name before. I recently bought some more essential oils and absolutes that were new to me, including calamus, costus, myrrh, and porcino mushroom.
Calamus was not quite the honeyed, fragrant, resinous note I had inferred. The first sniff is a heavy hit of “oiliness,” after which I can perceive herbal, grassy, woody, earthy, hay-like tones. It feels slightly dangerous but not addictive.
Myrrh was an instant love, and I wished I’d gotten to know it much earlier. For no good reason, I was simply never particularly interested in it before, and had not sought to smell it on its own. Myrrh is more honeyed and resinous, as well as woody, fruity, and mildly spicy in a similar manner as saffron; faintly smoky in the background. Addictive and moreish.
Other natural ingredients that complemented these deliciously had not only overlapping olfactive traits, but were also in the same color quadrant. Saffron has warm, nectary, fruity, leathery qualities. Tagetes (marigold), which I found overwhelming before, smells to me like tangy orange and dried fruits as well as a coffee note that I haven’t seen described elsewhere.
Labdanum has always been a challenging ingredient for me, as I find it pungent and medicinal, and I struggle with the amber genre of perfumes. However, I included it in this blend because of it’s “leathery” aspect and for structure as a backing to the other orangey-reddish materials. The other structural ingredient and fixative I chose was Evernyl (also known as Veramoss), a synthetic version of oakmoss.
I added orris absolute to emphasize the suede-like character and provide grounding, and brightened it with elemi and a light touch of aldehyde. To draw a parallel with pen-and-pencil drawing, the aldehyde was like the white or silver pen that I use to sketch whiskers as a last step to finishing a portrait of a dog or cat.
This blend doesn’t seem to follow a top-middle-base pattern, so I will simply list the ingredient heroes in rough groupings:
- Aldehyde C12 MNA, Cassis base 345B, elemi EO
- Calamus EO, labdanum EO, myrrh EO, saffron absolute, tagetes (marigold) EO
- Orris absolute, Evernyl, Suederal LT
- [Update on December 9: I added Exaltolide® to help with fixation and rounding of the blend]
In simple terms, I might call this a fruity leather. The myrrh and saffron are quite prominent, and I can feel the effects of the other ingredients, although I can’t really pick them out individually. They are becoming one.
Those who know me well, know that I can’t resist a pun. Taking the French word for leather, cuir, I looked for a Latin phrase that I could twist. “Cui bono?” meaning “who benefits?,” the first step in looking for someone with a motive to have committed a crime, fit perfectly. My perfume experiment is innocent, but with such intoxicating smells… Cuir Bono?